Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On July 26

Some years it takes a few weeks before we begin to get answers to my annual 10 questions for Eagles training camp. Some of the questions go unanswered until the regular season.

Not this year.

This year we received the answers to two of the questions before the first full-squad practice.

Question: Will Marcus Smith make the final roster?

Answer: No.

Question: Who will start on the offensive line?

Answer: Although it wasn’t a complete answer, the only position at which there’s any real question about the starter is left guard. On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich revealed that 2016 third-round pick Isaac Seumalo is the starter at left guard. Later in the day, after initial reports that Allen Barbre had been released, the Eagles announced that they had traded the 10-year veteran to the Broncos for a conditional 2019 draft pick.

It isn’t hindsight to state that drafting Smith was a mistake. Many objections were raised from practically all directions when the Eagles selected Smith, a defensive end from Louisville, with the 26th overall pick. Most draft previews had Smith as a mid-to-late second-round pick or a third-round pick.

I’ve always believed that when the Eagles – who saw the Saints trade up to No. 20 to select receiver Brandin Cooks and then had the Packers pick safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix at no. 21 – traded down the 22nd pick to the Browns and moved down to 26th, they thought that Auburn defensive end Dee Ford would be available. But the Chiefs, who were expected to pick a player for their offense, surprised most observers by taking Ford at No. 23.

Even with their preferred players gone, the Eagles could have done much better than Smith at No. 26. The Cardinals selected safety Deone Buchanan, who had developed into a terrific linebacker, at No. 27. The Panthers selected receiver Kelvin Benjamin at No. 28. The Broncos nabbed cornerback Bradley Roby at No. 31.

Smith finishes his three-year Eagles career with 24 tackles, four sacks and zero starts. That officially qualifies him as a bust who will go down in Eagles lore as one of the franchise’s worst first-round picks.

Speaking of busts, the Browns used the No. 22 pick to select quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Eagles also received the 83rd overall pick from the Browns. The Eagles subsequently traded that pick to the Texans, who selected Notre Dame tackle Louis Nix, for the 101st and 141st overall picks. The Eagles used those picks to select defensive back Jaylen Watkins and defensive end Taylor Hart, two players they have released and brought back. That’s not much of an overall return for the 22nd overall pick.

The departures of Smith and Barbre answer two of my training camp questions. Only eight more to go.


CONCERN OVER MATTHEWS: Developments surrounding Eagles training camp often get overblown, but there is sufficient reason to be concerned about receiver Jordan Matthews. After being limited during OTAs and mini-camps due to a knee issue, Matthews may also be limited during training camp, according to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

If Matthews’ knee issue, reportedly tendinitis, still isn’t healed after months of rest, that’s a reason to be concerned. Another possibility is that Matthews is limiting himself due to unhappiness that he hasn’t received a contract extension entering the final year of his rookie deal. The contract explanation would be much better for the Eagles than if his knee truly is limiting his participation.


DISTURBING STUDY: The Boston University study that found a strong connection between playing football and CTE, a degenerative brain condition that includes severe memory loss and depression. The study concludes that the longer you play football, the greater chance of developing CTE. Of the brains of 112 former NFL players studied, 111 showed signs of CTE. That’s a higher rate than those who only played college or high school football.

The authors of the study pointed out that the samples came from families of former players who committed suicide or demonstrated signs of CTE, so the samples weren’t random. But, any way you slice it, the findings are disturbing.

I used to regret not having played football in high school – I went to a small school without a football team – or college, where I declined encouragement to play from a friend on the team after he watched me play intramural football, but studies like this one make me think that maybe I was fortunate I didn’t play football.


FISH STORY: Did people truly expect Michael Phelps to be in the water with a great white shark during their match race? Judging by the reaction to Phelps’ race against a simulated great white shark to kick off Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, apparently many people did.

Let’s use some common sense, people. No matter how much he was paid, Phelps isn’t going to risk his life by getting into the water with one of nature’s fiercest predators. And what about the shark? Did you think the shark would stay stationary until the signal for the start of the race? Did you think the shark would stay in its lane? Or even swim in a straight line?

Discovery Channel shares some of the blame for the way in which it promoted the race, but how could viewers truly believe they were going to see a real race between Phelps and a great white shark?


LONG SHOT: Jordan Spieth’s recovery after a horrendous tee shot on the 13th hole during the final round of the British Open is one of the best in golf history. Spieth hit his shot so far to the right that he had to take an out of bounds penalty and a drop in a practice area behind a television tower and sponsors’ trucks.

Spieth hit an amazing shot from the practice area and escaped the par-4 hole with a remarkable bogey. The great escape seemed to inspire Spieth, who made two birdies and an eagle on the next three holes to regain the lead and take control of the tournament.


KAHNE’S BIG WIN: Kasey Kahne’s victory at the Brickyard 400 last Sunday was his first victory in 102 races, a stretch that lasted nearly three years. The victory virtually assures Kahne a spot in NASCAR’s 16-driver playoff, but it doesn’t assure him of remaining with Hendrick Motorsports.

When asked about Kahne’s future before the race, team owner Rick Hendrick wouldn’t commit to Kahne being in the No. 5 car next year. A strong showing in the playoffs might change Hendrick’s mind.

There are only six opportunities, including Sunday’s Overton’s 400 (3 p.m.) at Pocono Raceway, for drivers to get a victory to propel themselves into the playoffs. Among the drivers without wins are Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will be making his final appearance at Pocono before retiring. Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth are also winless this year, but, if the season ended today, they would qualify for the playoffs based on points.


GOLDEN MOMENT: The United States meets Jamaica for the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Wednesday night. This tournament is supposed to be a big deal – MLS teams, including the Union are missing key players who are participating in the tournament – but I don’t sense much excitement for it outside of die-hard soccer fans.


SMITH ENTERING HALL: Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodrigues and Tim Raines will be the headliners Sunday at the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., but congratulations should also go to Claire Smith, the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. The award, which is presented to a sports writer for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing,” is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association.

Smith, a pioneer as one of the first women to be a beat writer covering a major league team, will also break ground as the first woman to win the Spink Award. Smith covered the Yankees for five seasons for the Hartford Courant and later became a columnist for The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I once covered a high school basketball game at Simon Gratz High School for The Inquirer with Smith during the NBA strike/lockout, but that was my only interaction with her. What I do know is that everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Smith goes out of their way to say that she’s a wonderful person.


PLAYOFF DATES: The Soul will open the Arena Football League playoffs on Sat., Aug. 12 (4 p.m.) at Wells Fargo Center. The Soul will be the top seed, which means that, if they win their playoff opener, they will host the ArenaBowl on Sat., Aug. 26 (7 p.m.).


WILD, WILD WEST: A belated congratulations goes out to umpire Joe West, who worked the 5,000th game of his major-league career earlier this summer. West’s attitude often rubs people the wrong way, but former umpire Eric Gregg, who I had the privilege of knowing and working with in his post-baseball life, made me see a different side of West. Eric loved working with West, a sentiment I conveyed to West at Eric’s funeral, and told me a story or two that convinced me that West is a stand-up guy. I know Eric would be proud of Cowboy Joe for reaching this incredible milestone.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for nearly 29 years, has four fewer career sacks than Marcus Smith.

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